CHARLESTON — No. 2 seed Tug Valley overcame a slow start against No. 7 seed Cameron on Tuesday afternoon in the opening round of the WVSSAC Class A State Tournament as they pulled away late and clinched a 69-55 win to move onto the state semifinals.
The Panthers (14-2) will play again on Thursday morning at 11:15 a.m. against No. 3 seed Pendleton County (16-0) at the Charleston Coliseum.
“That was a struggle, you’ve got to give Cameron a lot of credit. They really took it to us, every time we would get a little run and get up to a six to eight point lead there they would keep coming back” Tug Valley coach Garland “Rabbit” Thompson said. “Luckily we had enough in us to pull it out down the stretch and I’m thankful to come out with a win.
The Panthers came out sluggish to start the game after a 12-day layoff between games as Cameron (11-5) jumped out to a 15-11 lead at the end of one quarter of play after a late bucket from Colson Wichterman.
The Dragons took their largest lead of the game at 23-16 with 4:24 to play in the second quarter after a three from Logan Burkett forced a timeout by coach Thompson to settle his team down.
Coming out of the timeout the Panthers turned up the defensive pressure and forced seven turnovers in the final four minutes of the quarter which lead to some easy buckets on the offensive end as they ended the quarter on a 13-2 run.
Senior Caleb May, who finished with a game high 32 points and eight steals on the night, scored the final six points of the quarter which helped his team take the 29-25 lead into halftime.
“Coach tells us that defense wins championships, that was probably the main focus coming into the game” May said after the win. “Defense turns into offense, we’ve really been working hard on playing better defense and that’s what it’s going to take to keep winning.”
In the third quarter Tug Valley extended their lead up to eight at 38-30 after a put back by Ethan Colegrove, but the Dragons went on a 7-0 run to cut the lead to 38-37 after a three from Conner Powell with 3:24 to play in the third quarter.
The Panthers got buckets from Colegrove, Ian Reed, and Justin Hall in the final minutes of the third to take a 44-39 lead into the fourth.
Tug Valley quickly added to their lead in the fourth quarter of play and took their first double-digit lead with 3:44 to play after another bucket from May.
The Dragons cut the lead back to six at 61-55 following a Tug Valley turnover with 55 seconds to play but the Panthers scored the final eight points of the game to secure the 14-point win.
Colegrove joined May in double-figures for Tug Valley as he scored 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds, five coming on the offensive end.
Ian Reed and Easton Davis each added eight points, while Reed led the team with nine rebounds while dishing three assists and picking up three steals. Justin Hall rounded out the scoring column for Tug Valley with six points and six rebounds.
The Dragons were led 6’7” junior center Trevor Beresford and sophomore Cole Burkett who both netted 13 points. Connor Powell added eight while senior Logan Burkett followed with six points and seven rebounds.
The Panthers advanced to 14-2 with the win and move on to the state semifinals for the first time since 2018 when they fell to Ravenswood. Coach Thompson spoke about the challenge ahead in the form of Pendleton County, who enters riding a 39 game winning streak dating back to the 2019-20 season.
“They’re big, string, and undefeated for two years now,” coach Thompson said. “They’re coach said that they are cerebral, and they most certainly are...They are extremely well coached, they know their flaws but they also know their strengths. We’ve got our work cut out for us...if these kids aren’t ready to go Pendleton will knock us out. I’m very concerned.”
Score by Quarters
CHS (11-5): 15 10 14 16 — 55
TVHS (14-2): 11 18 15 25 — 69
C. Burkett 13, Beresford 13, Powell 8, L. Burkett 6, Howard 5, Wichterman 4, Hartley 2, Day 4
TV: May 32, Colegrove 15, Reed 8, Davis 8. Hall 6, Sorrell 0.